Death toll from tainted Costa Rica alcohol rises

The Costa Rican Health Ministry says it has now confirmed at least 20 deaths from consumption of alcohol tainted with methanol. The ministry said on Wednesday that it searched a facility belonging to one of the suppliers of the alcohol and confiscated boxes of the product.

The ministry said that the investigation continues, but so far it has counted 15 men and five women who have died after drinking adulterated liquor since early June. The victims ranged from 32 to 72 years of age. In total, the ministry identified 41 people affected by the alcohol.

During the search at distributor Pinares de Heredia, officials said they found alcohol with expired sanitary registrations.

Some of the brands of alcohol confiscated by the Costa Rica Ministry of Health after 19 people died from methanol poisoning linked to tainted liquor. Costa Rica Ministry of Health

Government officials have seized around 30,000 bottles from brands suspected of containing methanol, with names like “Aguardiente Molotov” and “Guaro Gran Apache.” Aguardiente translates to English as “fire water.” Both it and guaro are traditionally distilled from sugar cane.

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Liquor sellers sometimes dilute products with toxic methanol to increase profit margins or raise alcohol content.

Symptoms of methanol poisoning include abdominal pain, headache and lack of coordination in body movements. Victims often seek medical treatment only after a delay, because symptoms tend to appear long after methanol has been consumed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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